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ICYMI: A community ball

In case you missed it in December 2021, co-founder of the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, Twysted Miyake-Mugler, shared his thoughts with us about ballroom culture and the importance of community work.

Twysted Miyake-Mugler

Image Courtesy of Twysted Miyake-Mugler.

In recent years, the popularity of vogueing and ballroom culture has grown immensely – and here in Canada, the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance is one of the main reasons why. Since its inception in 2010, the TKBA has organized countless balls, built mentorship programs for young LGBTQ2+ people and People of Colour, and become one of the most important arts-based, grass-roots organizations in Toronto. During the summer and fall of 2021, their popularity increased when they organized a series of elaborately themed ballroom events in East Toronto’s Underpass Park – including the Kiki Olympics ball, and the school-themed Curriculum Ball. 

In 2019, the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance partnered with the AGO to provide free vogueing lessons for young people, which culminated in an epic ball held in Walker Court. Since then, sessions have continued digitally between TKBA and the AGO Youth Council. We recently connected with TKBA co-founder Twysted Miyake-Mugler to find out more about the origins of the organization and his thoughts about the future of ballroom culture.  

UPDATE: Catch Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance at the AGO in the Weston Family Learning Centre every Wednesday in June 2022 for Vogue Dance Takeovers with AGO youth. 

AGOinsider: How and when did Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance get its start?

Miyake-Mugler: It started in January 2010, as the result of a Myspace conversation. The house of Pink Lady was looking to make a big splash at their second house ball, by debuting the first international chapter of a kiki house! So, Canada is the first country outside of the United States to have an affiliated scene.

AGOinsider: Ballroom culture is so complex and involves many different artistic disciplines. Can you break down some of the various art forms that get showcased at a ball? Which is your personal favourite and why?

Miyake-Mugler: Since we are talking ballroom, I like to use ballroom terminology when discussing it. I feel like theorizing it to that extent takes away from the rawness and purpose of ballroom. Straight up expression and competition. Dance, fashion, beauty, physical fitness/attributes, and so much more are part of our world. My personal favourite is obviously vogue, because of the role it has played in my life. There is no form of dance more expressive than vogue, for me.

AGOinsider: In recent years, vogueing and ballroom culture have grown in popularity. Can you share some of the ways (good or bad) you’ve seen the world of ballroom change as it gets more popular?  

Miyake-Mugler: As ballroom culture becomes more popular, it’s imperative to understand that ballroom is one of the more traditional communities. There is a sense of homage and living history that is prevalent in ballroom that keeps things as they are. As ballroom continues to spread and grow, it will be clear what local scenes are derived from the actual ballroom scene and not “culture vultures”!

AGOinsider: Aside from throwing epic balls throughout Toronto, TKBA does a lot of community work engaging queer youth. Can you tell us a bit more about that work and why it’s important to the organization?

Miyake-Mugler: Our work is, simply put – “Take care of each other”. This is the heart of the community work, because the balls simply bring us together. There is a lot of intentional work that goes into making this competition ground a community space. Our leaders consistently do different types of training. Our leaders are consistently in communication with the different members of our community to ensure that everyone feels safe and accounted for. We take community accountability and community justice very seriously, in an effort to minimize interactions with the police. It’s important to us because we are some of the most marginalized in the City of Toronto, and this comes with a system that targets us to keep us down. It’s important to take our power back and control our narratives as much as we can.

To learn more about the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, visit them on Instagram or Facebook, and stay tuned to the AGO homepage for info on future youth vogueing sessions.

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